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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So as the title says, I'm attempting my first dirted tank, and I'm having some problems. I've been fishless cycling tanks for 10 years or so, and this is the first time I've ever had a serious snag.

After a month of fishless cycling and seeing almost minimal ammonia, nitrite and no nitrate, I added 6 platies (I need them to breed for some Killis I have anyway). Test again today, still nothing across the board.

I also added some live plants which are doing well even under the subdued lighting (new ballast coming tomorrow) and with the tannins.

Here is the important info:

1. Had minimum-to zero readings across the board for Nitrogen cycle. (edit: for 4 weeks)

2. Tried adding difference sources of ammonia, and used some cycled media. Still nothing.

3. Current fish: 6 Platies

4. Current plants: Ambulia, Hygro, Amazon Frogbit, Bacopa, Java Moss - all are surviving or growing.

5. Water stained by tannins, I'm guessing from the soil? One peice of manzanite wood but my manzanite usually doesn't leach.

6. Filtration is a powerhead powered sponge filter, 40g tank (want to breed Threadfin Rainbows, people have had more success with this type of filtration than others).

7. Using Prime.

8. 5g water changes starting yesterday, 3x weekly from now on to remove tannins.

9. pH 7.0, kH 5.0, gH 6.0


Theories:

Can dirt cycle a tank almost immediately? Because EVEN if I was getting false reading from Prime, I should still be seeing Trite and Trate?
 

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40 gals and 6 platies starting with established media... Sounds like the worst that may happen is a cycle crash if you starve the bacteria as I'm sure yhe platies are not really a huge load at the moment. I've had almost instant cycles when load was low and using established media. The plants if you have enough will take care of trate... Now just slowly raise the load and you should be ok.

Rafal

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, I think I am going to feed liberally this week and see ow the tank reacts. My real concern is that the cycle is stalled for whatever reason, then I add the colony of Threadfin Rainbows and it goes to hell in a handbag overnight.
 

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1. Had minimum-to zero readings across the board for Nitrogen cycle. (edit: for 4 weeks)
Ammonia: Nitrite: Nitrate: All zeros? But you should be adding ammonia.
2. Tried adding difference sources of ammonia, and used some cycled media. Still nothing.
What different sources? Protein like shrimp or prawn? Fish food? Ammonia from a bottle?
3. Current fish: 6 Platies
Well, no more adding ammonia!
4. Current plants: Ambulia, Hygro, Amazon Frogbit, Bacopa, Java Moss - all are surviving or growing.
Any floating plants can remove nitrogen (in any form) pretty fast. I wonder if the Frogbit and fast growing Hygro are removing enough ammonia that the cycle is complete?
5. Water stained by tannins, I'm guessing from the soil? One peice of manzanite wood but my manzanite usually doesn't leach.
I do not think tannins interfere with the growth of nitrifying bacteria. My Manzanita also does not seem to leach significant tannins. Probably coming from the soil.
6. Filtration is a powerhead powered sponge filter, 40g tank (want to breed Threadfin Rainbows, people have had more success with this type of filtration than others).
What size powerhead?
7. Using Prime.

8. 5g water changes starting yesterday, 3x weekly from now on to remove tannins.

9. pH 7.0, kH 5.0, gH


The nitrifying bacteria thrive under these conditions:
High oxygen (so good water movement)
Ammonia under 5 ppm (So add ammonia to 5 ppm only the first day or so, then allow it to drop to 3 ppm)
Nitrite under 5 ppm (So, if it ever shows up, keep it under 5 ppm with water changes)
KH- These bacteria need the carbon from carbonates, so I would make sure the KH is over 3 German degrees of hardness.
pH- I know these bacteria were first grown in the lab with alkaline water, but I do not know if that is because they need the carbonates, or if they really need high pH.
Some organic acids have some antibacterial properties. Not a lot, and I have not heard of them stalling a cycle.
Moderate temperature- The bacteria grow faster with higher temperature, but water holds less oxygen at higher temperature. Anywhere in the 70s is probably great, higher only if you can assure good oxygen supply. Since most aquarium plants struggle when the temperature gets into the 80s, and you have added cool water fish, I would keep the temperature about 75*F.
No toxins such as fish meds, soaps, surfactants, perfumes (Read the label on the ammonia. Should be pure ammonia, nothing else).

How did you prepare the soil? Did you mineralize it? Or just take it straight out of the garden? Natural soil, where weeds and worms and so on have been living is very good, it even has some of the nitrifying bacteria in it.

What happens when you add ammonia to test 5 ppm? Does it go away really fast? Maybe the plants are using it.
 

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40 gals and 6 platies starting with established media... Sounds like the worst that may happen is a cycle crash if you starve the bacteria as I'm sure yhe platies are not really a huge load at the moment. I've had almost instant cycles when load was low and using established media. The plants if you have enough will take care of trate... Now just slowly raise the load and you should be ok.

Rafal

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
You don't "starve" the bacteria nitrogen fixing bacteria, their metabolism slows down and they will go still consume the ammonia(NH4) and nitrites to convert into both energy and Nitrate...but at a much lower rate until the ammonia returns to higher levels which they'll match up to.
 

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40 gals and 6 platies starting with established media... Sounds like the worst that may happen is a cycle crash if you starve the bacteria as I'm sure yhe platies are not really a huge load at the moment. I've had almost instant cycles when load was low and using established media. The plants if you have enough will take care of trate... Now just slowly raise the load and you should be ok.

Rafal

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2


I did a 75 with MTS and Aqua-soil. I had a 1 week cycle. I used a testing machine from my college (thanks to an awesome chemistry staff) for 3 weeks. I added 8 adult angels, 15 ottos, 10 congos, and some others a week after the tank was started. <- Not a single spike in ammonia. And Remember also, some plants have the nitrogen fixing bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with roots of plants to help with growth. As long as other nutrients (light, c02, P04, micros, etc) are sufficient, the speed of that cycle will increase.
 

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And Remember also, some plants have the nitrogen fixation bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with roots of plants to fixate
Which ones? I know lots of land plants do this, but I did not know any aquatics could.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You don't "starve" the bacteria nitrogen fixing bacteria, their metabolism slows down and they will go still consume the ammonia(NH4) and nitrites to convert into both energy and Nitrate...but at a much lower rate until the ammonia returns to higher levels which they'll match up to.

Just to add - I did a 75 with MTS and Aqua-soil. I had a 1 week cycle. I used a testing machine from my college (thanks to an awesome chemistry staff) for 3 weeks. I added 8 adult angels, 15 ottos, 10 congos, and some others a week after the tank was started. <- Not a single spike in ammonia. And Remember also, some plants have the nitrogen fixation bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with roots of plants to fixate....
Can you explain this for dumb ol' me? The second part that is.
 

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Sounds like your tank is already cycled or instant cycled due to the biological media you've added.

My current tank never really cycled ether, but from day one I had live driftwood (from a river) and plenty of plants. Never saw any elevation of any parameters.

Just go slow while adding livestock.
 

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Can you explain this for dumb ol' me? The second part that is.
Some semi-aquatics (mostly species that are terrestrial AND submersed) and ~18,000 land species have the bacteria (Rhizobia) to do it.


Plants that have the bacteria for fixating can help speed up the time it takes to cycle...
 

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Using soil or mulch enriched substrates I've only had a single tank show cycle readings on tests.
The rest simply started showing low nitrate readings after settling in.

I just loaded another tank (90g MTS) the end of September and it never showed a cycle.
A few plants added with a 280 bio wheel moving the water placed at the end of the tank. Flooded 9/24/2012 with just substrate the tank held 70g filled, so much for listed volumes LOL. The same day I loaded this tank I rinsed the filter pad from my 29g beeder tank and poured the mum water into the new tank.
9/25 I planted a few reopen stems, added a clump of java fern and a few frogbit floaters.
9/29 (5 days wet) 185TDS, 4dGH, 2dKH, 7pH I swapped the filter pad on the 90g with the one on the existing 29g breeder tank (swapped the pads without rinsing it). Added 6 salt & pepper cory (Corydoras paleatus).
10/5 the testing was NO3 6ppm, zero nitrite and ammonia.
10/6 I added 7 more S&P and a kuhli (all they had at the LFS)
10/15 the testing was NO3 3ppm (<5ppm color), zero nitrite and ammonia.

My blue angels followed after worming the Cory and loach.
The stocking of the tank is complete and I've had three spawns by the angels already.

Seeded filters are the bomb! (just stock in steps)
You may never see the cycle on a chemical test.
 

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Can dirt cycle a tank almost immediately?
Yes. As explained in the book Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, soil already comes with plenty of nitrifying bacteria.

When I set up a soil-based tank, I typically add fish within 24 hours.


Because EVEN if I was getting false reading from Prime, I should still be seeing Trite and Trate?
No. I'd never detected any nitrite or nitrate in a soil-based tank with plenty of healthy growing plants.
 

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Plants that have the bacteria for fixating can help speed up the time it takes to cycle
How does this work?

If you don't have any nitrate, you don't have very healthy plants
Uh, maybe not so well worded. Your plants may be using all the nitrogen in all 3 forms, with the net result that the tests show low to no nitrate, and be just fine. If they were unhealthy they would not be taking in so much nitrogen. Zero or very low nitrate does suggest that the plants might become less healthy if a deficiency continues, it does not say they are unhealthy now.

dbl dbl 17, How is the cycle going?
 

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Almost every freshwater environment there is Nitrate at some level...If you don't have any nitrate, you don't have very healthy plants...:icon_roll
May I remind you that the tank in question has a soil substrate...:wink:

In such a tank, the main nutrient supply comes from the soil, not the water. And I have seen plenty of soil-based tanks with no nitrate in the water and yet the plants continued to be very healthy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
For all the replies, im reading this on my phone at work so i cant touch on al the points yet.

The plants are growingabout 2cm a day, excluding the Bacopa. The platies are surivived and are doing well. I will post updated params tonight!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Almost every freshwater environment there is Nitrate at some level...If you don't have any nitrate, you don't have very healthy plants...:icon_roll
Update params:

pH - 7
kH - 5
gH - 7
Ammo - 0
Trite - 0
Trate - 5

This is the first time I've seen any kind of colour at all when testing Nitrates. I'm thinking it's all set.
 

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Update params:

pH - 7
kH - 5
gH - 7
Ammo - 0
Trite - 0
Trate - 5

This is the first time I've seen any kind of colour at all when testing Nitrates. I'm thinking it's all set.

Very cool :)

zdnet, I understand that it's a soil tank... But even still the water is coming in contact with the soil 100% of the time. Our 'hobby test kits' may not be 100% accurate, but there will always be nitrate unless you use RO water and test as your putting the water in...Granted it may be 1-2 ppm an hour or 2 later. :fish::fish: Happy fish keeping. There's no need to go into it further.
 

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zdnet, I understand that it's a soil tank... But even still the water is coming in contact with the soil 100% of the time. Our 'hobby test kits' may not be 100% accurate, but there will always be nitrate unless you use RO water and test as your putting the water in...Granted it may be 1-2 ppm an hour or 2 later.
Yes, water nutrient level does fluctuate and hobby test kits may not be very accurate.

As to the statement that one cannot have (or continue to have) healthy plants in a soil-based tank when the nitrate test shows zero, it is not true.


:fish::fish: Happy fish keeping.
Zero nitrate is a sign that the water was not polluted by overfeeding. Happy fish keeping with a smaller water footprint.
 

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Yes, water nutrient level does fluctuate and hobby test kits may not be very accurate.
As to the statement that one cannot have (or continue to have) healthy plants in a soil-based tank when the nitrate test shows zero, it is not true.

Zero nitrate is a sign that the water was not polluted by overfeeding. Happy fish keeping with a smaller water footprint.
Wait! Won't a dirt tank fail if you don't overfeed the fish?
I use the information found in Diana's book.

In a tank without fertilizer dosing, the major source of ongoing nutrient supply is fish feed that eventually replenishes the soil substrate in the form of accumulated fish mulm. But that form of nutrient replenishment takes time and is much slower than the spectacular plant growth made possible by CO2 injection. When the rate of nutrient removal is faster than the rate of replenishment, it is just a matter of time before certain nutrients run out. The tank will then have poor plant growth or algae outbreak.
Some plants are more robust while others are more particular in their nutrient requirements. ISTM a key to long term success with soil substrate is staying with robust plants.
Fishfood. See chapter 5 of her book.
When the rate of nutrient replenishment (via fishfood) does not keep up with consumption, a tank will run into nutrient problem, just a matter of time.

To form a realistic expectation and be fair to a method, one has to understand and respect the method's strength and weakness. A Walstad-tank has the advantage of being low maintenance. But because of the low light level and no nutrient dosing other than fishfood, you can't just have any plants you want.
While commercial food are not the best, the nutrition value is still very good. See the fishfood analysis in Diana's book.
So based on what you posted before won't a soil based tank fail if you don't overfeed the fish or if the generated waste doesn't provide nutrient support? Just left wondering how fish food, mum and or fish waste can replenish the basic plant needs without any reading in the water column. (getting completely off topic)
 
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